Pokémon Go is an augmented reality phenomenon. As the most popular mobile game in US history, it attracted more users in just three days than Twitter has attained in the last decade. After its July 6 launch, Pokémon Go even had more user engagement than Facebook, with a generated daily revenue of more than $1.6 million, according to SimilarWeb.

Moreover, those numbers are coming only from the US and the 26 European countries where the game is available. We can only imagine what's going to happen once users in Asia-Pacific and Latin America get their hands on the game.

The numbers are certainly impressive, but the true phenomenon of this story is how in one launch, The Pokémon Company has rewritten its future and the future of its gaming competitors, all because of Niantac's location-based technology.

Transforming the World

The company transformed itself from a card trading and video gaming leader to a potential data analytics and marketing genius. The crowdsourced location data Pokémon Go is generating has great potential because of the sheer number of users, and marketers may want to tap into that data down the line if greater customer insights are unveiled. (Niantic's privacy policy states it does collect location data and data from users' mobile device while they play the game.)

Pokémon Go is reinventing gaming. It's reshaping the augmented reality experience. And it's making data sexy again.

To succeed in Pokémon Go, you need to visit (in person) real locations in real time. The accuracy and precision of Pokémon Go's location data is absolutely critical. Get it wrong, and you risk the wrath of millions of players, not to mention neighborhood residents. Get it right, and you can create a global movement that transforms the way we've previously considered merging our physical surroundings with interactive digital experiences.

Capturing Data in a Whole New Way

With Pokémon Go, Niantic has created a new channel for capturing data.

Of course, Niantic isn't the only company capturing location data and providing location-based user experiences—far from it. But it is one of the first to exhibit the power of location data in a popular, consumable way. With social media location check-ins, geographically-targeted marketing campaigns, and "Find my nearest…" services offered by local authorities on websites, location-based data now drives some incredible hyper-real experiences.

Collating information on how, when, where, and why we move through the physical world has immense opportunity. There are few instances where businesses can capture data generated by large volumes of people in a particular physical location (e.g., music festivals, major conferences, or gatherings at particular landmarks). Niantic has taken this up a notch by capturing where and when a player is at a specific location and how he or she interacts with people and things within a specific location.

That type of relational data is what drives the concept behind the Internet of Things and gives context to why people behave the way they do. For businesses, this is the type of data that counts because it drives meaningful and personalized customer experiences.

Some of the location-based activities that Niantic is able to capture customer data from may include:

  • PokeStops. In-app purchases, such as Poke Balls and Incense, are used to capture more Pokémon. You can buy these within the in-game shop or collect them at PokeStops throughout the game, clearly indicated on a map. PokeStop locations must be accurate for the game to seamlessly connect the virtual and real worlds, and are determined based on a combination of historical/cultural landmarks, geo-tagged photos from Google and locations suggested from Niantic's previous geo-location game Ingress.
  • Lures. Shops and restaurants that want to increase foot traffic can purchase lures from the in-game store that spawns more Pokémon to a specified location when activated. A pizza restaurant in Long Island City reported a 75% increase in sales, having paid just $10 for a handful of lures.
  • Advertisements. Advertisements in physical locations will soon start popping up in the game, drawing attention to a location and to promotions offered at that location. Rather than offer a pizza restaurant drawing, the restaurant can now place ads for discounted deep dish pizza at the nearby park where players are congregating.

The geospatial data generated through Pokémon Go is something everyone wants to get their hands on because the data is almost guaranteed to be accurate. After all, it's tested every day by millions of users.

* * *

Niantic has undeniably created a paradigm shift in gaming and geospatial data. Apps such as Swarm/Foursquare have taken the gamification approach with check-ins, but Pokémon Go has upped the ante, and players can't get enough.

Indirectly, the company has also transformed the way we think about the physical and digital worlds. It is no longer physical or digital; it is now physical and digital. There is an undeniable synergy between the two consumer experiences businesses can no longer ignore. In creating Pokémon Go, Niantic has discovered the value of a single customer view that embraces context and location, and it's incredibly powerful.

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Pokemon Go Makes Data Sexy Again

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image of Jack Bullock

Jack Bullock is senior vice-president of Software Solutions at Pitney Bowes, a provider of global e-commerce solutions, shipping and mailing products, location intelligence, customer engagement, and customer information management solutions.

LinkedIn: Jack Bullock